NAU had much to celebrate this commencement season. Our graduating class included more than 5,600 students – students who trained at our programs in Flagstaff, online and around the state. The diversity of their heritage, perspective and experience enhanced the classrooms where they learned and the topics they studied, and we are proud to welcome them to our Lumberjack alumni family.
These graduates now enter the next stage of their life armed with confidence in their accomplishments and dedication to the promise of things to come.
NAU finishes this academic year with a mindset reflective of our graduates: holding ambitious optimism, proud of what we have accomplished, committed to those who have made our success possible, and eager to pursue the new opportunities before us.
I am grateful to the state leaders who have helped expand the range of our possibilities. When I arrived at NAU, Arizona was still suffering from the economic downturn. This year, the state is beginning its economic recovery and has prioritized the universities as a partner in the economic rebound. Governor Ducey outlined a bold proposal to invest in the future – the future of Arizona college students, the future of NAU and the future of our state.
We received bipartisan support for a plan that will allow NAU to continue to thrive as a research institution focused on the student experience. With a long-term plan for funding our infrastructure needs and priorities, we can better prepare for the education programs that put us at the forefront of learning and discovery.
Our students know that whatever they study, research can help transform the fields in which they work. It can answer old problems and create new knowledge, and it can inspire cooperation that builds solutions to improve the lives of individuals, communities and organizations. The state’s investment in that infrastructure holds the key to increased research, better inventions and a stronger workforce. Research transforms our possibilities and expands our potential – not for abstract purposes, but for direct benefits of those we educate, partner with and serve. Since the state’s last investment in our research programs in 2008, NAU has grown our research grants and contracts by more than 20 percent, drawing in more than $393 million in resources.
We are training the medical professionals that will treat and cure disease, the astronomers who will find answers in the universe, the engineers that can design structures and societies better suited to those that live in them, the educators who will teach future generations. This is why we welcome enrollment growth. While some see numbers, we see a growing impact for individual students who earn an NAU degree, and a greater impact on Arizona’s economy as we build a more robust workforce that is prepared for the needs of today and tomorrow.
As we wrap up an incredible academic year and move forward with renewed dedication to the possibilities before us, I am grateful to our Flagstaff community that supports education and the doors it opens. Thank you for welcoming our students, celebrating with our graduates and joining with NAU as we build on our successes to continue to grow opportunities for our Lumberjacks. FBN
By Rita Cheng